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Jeffrey Davis

Jeffrey Davis, PhD

Professor, Deaf Studies


Jeffrey Davis is a professor in the Educational Interpreter program at the University of Tennessee. He has worked as an interpreter, teacher, and researcher in the field of sign language/deaf studies for the past three decades. Davis began his university teaching career in 1983 at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, where he taught in the master’s degree program in interpretation in the Department of Linguistics and Interpreting until 1990. He served on the faculties of the Sign Language/Deaf Studies program in the College of Education at the University of Arizona (1990–94) and the Sign Language Interpretation program at Miami-Dade College (1994–2000). In addition to extensive field practice and research, he has developed and taught undergraduate and graduate coursework in education of the deaf, sign language/deaf studies, linguistics, and interpreting.
He joined the UT faculty in 2000 where he is a professor of ASL, linguistics, and interpreting in the Educational Interpreting program. He also serves on several instructional teams: the Education of the Deaf program, the Center on Deafness, and the linguistics committee in the College of Arts and Sciences.


His primary research focus is the linguistic analysis of ASL and the study of translation and interpretation. Davis is involved in the US Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE) collaborative project—Reforming Interpreter Education: A Practice Professions Approach—between the University of Tennessee and The University of Rochester, School of Medicine. In this national curriculum reform project, all courses are being developed and piloted in UT’s Educational Interpreting program. The purpose is to teach interpreting as a practice profession, like teaching, medicine, or law, where acquisition of professional judgment and self-evaluation skills are simultaneously imparted with content knowledge.

Davis is also conducting linguistic research of North American Sign Language; digitalizing and analyzing rare archival data from the Library of Congress, Smithsonian Institute, Gallaudet University Archives, Indiana University Archives, and the National Archives. After these films and documents are digitally re-mastered, this database will be made available for students and other scholars to study through the University Libraries’ digital media service. This research project has important theoretical and linguistic implications for understanding the nature and origins of human language and the similarities, differences, and historical relationship between sign use among indigenous populations (e.g., Native American Indians and the sign language used in deaf communities).
See Science Nation’s report on the work being done to preserve PISL.


Professional Background

Jeffrey Davis

Contact Information

  • A218 Jane and David Bailey Education Complex, 1126 Volunteer Boulevard, Knoxville, TN 37996
  • Phone: 865-974-0427
  • E-mail: